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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Puerto Rico was targeted in 926 million-plus cyberattacks in 2021

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico was the target of over 926 million attempted cyberattacks in 2021, according to data from Fortinet, a firm that provides automated cybersecurity solutions.

According to data obtained by FortiGuard Labs, Fortinet’s threat intelligence laboratory, Mexico was the Latin American country that received the most attempted attacks with 156 billion, followed by Brazil with 88.5 billion, Peru with 11.5 billion and Colombia with 11.2 billion.

“The increase in volume, sophistication and effectiveness of cyber threats during 2021 has been remarkable, so organizations in the region must be better prepared with a comprehensive and automated security approach to prevent, detect and mitigate these risks that are putting the integrity of their operations at stake,” said Arturo Torres, Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs cybersecurity strategist for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The 2021 report reveals that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are on a par with other regions and have been the target of about 10% of the total number of cyberattack attempts registered during the past year around the world.

An example of this was the Log4J vulnerability, one of the most used by attackers in the period, which allowed the complete remote execution of malicious code on vulnerable systems in the region. The Latin American countries that registered the most attempts for this exploration were Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

During the third quarter of 2021, the largest Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack in history was reported. The threat arose from a variant of the Mirai botnet, targeting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which launched more than a dozen DDoS attacks, exceeding 1 TeraBit per second (Tbps) several times and hovering around 1.2 Tbps. Fortinet found that Brazil was the target of about 10% of these attacks, which represented some 500 billion DDoS attempts fired at that country.

In addition, attempts to install cryptocurrency mining tools were also detected in Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

Many of the threats to corporate cybersecurity reported during 2021 are closely related to the number of people connected to their jobs remotely. In the second half of the year, a considerable increase in the use of mass scanning techniques was detected in Latin America and the Caribbean, which allows a cyber attacker to identify vulnerabilities, collect information on breaches in vulnerable systems and select their targets based on their findings.

FortiGuard Labs also detected a large number of remote code execution (RCE) attacks on IoT devices, such as cameras, microphones and home routers, allowing the attacker to take control of vulnerable enterprise systems. In this sense, Mirai continues to be the Botnet campaign that registers the most activity in all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Mirai is a cyber threat targeting IoT devices that causes infected devices to join a network of botnets, which are used for DDoS attacks. FortiGuard Labs has reported a new variant of Mirai, spread via the Log4j vulnerability, that came to light in Q4 2021.

Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Panama, meanwhile, have been the target of distributions of malware and Trojans focused on Microsoft Office applications, usually used for distance work and education.

Malware distribution through deceptive advertising, malicious websites, and phishing email campaigns remains the most widely used deception technique used by cybercriminals. Once victim devices are infected, attackers can hijack them and use them to commit cybercrimes such as credential theft and distributed denial-of-service attacks. Likewise, the use of information about COVID-19 and the recent omicron variant allowed the deployment of the RedLine Stealer botnet campaign in the fourth quarter of 2021, where attackers steal information from users and use it for malicious actions or sell it to future criminal activities.

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